We go on the road with Quo; Music Mail music editor ANDY COLEMAN goes backstage with the veteran rockers in Amsterdam.
I'VE been rockin' all over the world with Status Quo.
Well, not exactly the world, but I did join the band in Amsterdam for the opening gig of their Just Doin' It world tour which reaches Birmingham NEC on December 9.
Despite guitarist Rick Parfitt's operation to remove a tumour from his throat, which led to four months off the road for the Quo at the beginning of 2006, the band are now busier than ever.
Rick is a special guest tomorrow at Music Live at the NEC and two Quo DVDs are being released, as well as a hardback 40th anniversary book containing hundreds of photos, memorabilia and memories.
The Just Doin' It Live DVD, out on Monday, was recorded at the NEC on May 21 and features the full two hour show, a behind-the-scenes documentary and a collection of fans' photographs submitted for the disc.
A special edition version includes a live CD, postcards, poster, car sticker,
60 page booklet and signed set list.
The One and Only DVD brings together past performances.
"We plan to start work on a new album in March, then it will be more gigs over the summer and again next November and December," says frontman Francis Rossi. "It would be nice to do less. I want to find out what it's like to be bored."
Life on the road for the Quo is made as comfortable as possible, however. Backstage at Amsterdam's Heineken Music Hall the dining area has candles on the tables and the band and crew are presented with a menu from which to choose their meal.
Main course options include sirloin steak, baked cod and garlic prawns and ravioli stuffed with spinach. Fresh fruit salad and strawberry cheesecake are among the dessert choice.
On the wall is a big-screen plasma television tuned to BBC World and in the dressing room is a half finished jigsaw. I meet up with Rick in Quo's dimly lit 'Mood Room'.
"I don't like bright lights until I hit the stage and it's show-time," says the 58-year-old.
He tells of his relief that the throat tumour was benign - but he's still not fully recovered.
"My voice is around 85 per cent what it should be. I worry about it every night before I go on stage, although a lot of that is psychological.
"At an earlier show in Switzerland I opened my mouth to sing and nothing came out. It was the most frightening moment of my life - the microphone begins to look like my enemy."
Rick is now receiving support not only from his old mate Francis and the rest of the band but also his new wife Lyndsay who was with him in Amsterdam.
"She's on the road with us because we don't want to spend time apart," says Rick.
"It was a whirlwind romance. We fell in love and the opportunity to get married in Gibraltar arose. We're very happy."
Adds 57-year-old Francis: "I was the only other person who knew about it. She's good for him and I'm happy for him. Rick needs someone like that in his life. I don't attend weddings but I sent them a bunch of flowers."
As the gig approaches we talk about changes to the setlist for the 2006 tour.
"We've dropped 4500 Times and brought back In The Army Now, Paper Plane and Dirty Water," reveals Rick. "And there's a new encore medley."
Not that the songs will remain the same by the time the tour gets to Birmingham.
"We've had around 67 hit singles but different songs have done better than others in certain countries," says Francis.
"I don't particularly want to do In The Army Now because we didn't write it. And I'm not sure it's the right time to be singing 'Uncle Sam does the best he can'.
"It was banned during the Gulf War but it was one of our biggest hits so we feel we have to do it."
The gig proves the point about different audiences liking different things.
The Amsterdam audience is a 'hardcore' following - Quo fans who prefer the band's hard rocking early material to the later poppier singles.
The country-tinged Dirty Water receives a muted response, whereas 1975's Roll Over Lay Down, sends the crowd wild.
And the singalong Burning Bridges, which has become an encore favourite in Britain, is dropped - although I'm told it may reappear at the NEC on December 9.
The good news is that Rick's voice sounds great and when I meet him and his wife after the show he's relaxed and obviously enjoying life.
"Mission accomplished," he grins, giving me the thumbs up.
THUMBS UP... our man Andy with Rick Parfitt and (inset) Francis Rossi